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Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun

Part 3 out of 9

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were out for some hours. In a very short time Geissler had followed
the lie of the copper vein over a wide stretch of land and marked out
the limits of the tract he wanted. Here, there, and everywhere he was.
But no fool, for all his hasty movements; quick to judge, but sound
enough for all that.

When they came back to the farm once more with a sack full of samples
of ore--he got out writing materials and sat down to write. He did not
bury himself completely in his writing, though, but talked now and
again. "Well, Isak, it won't be such a big sum this time, for the
land, but I can give you a couple of hundred _Daler_ anyway, on the
spot." Then he wrote again. "Remind me before I go, I want to see that
mill of yours," said he. Then he caught sight of some blue and red
marks on the frame of the loom, and asked."Who drew that?" Now that
was Eleseus, had drawn a horse and a goat; he used his coloured pencil
on the loom and woodwork anywhere, having no paper. "Not at all bad,"
said Geissler, and gave Eleseus a coin.

Geissler went on writing for a bit, and then looked up. "You'll be
having other people taking up land hereabouts before long."

At this the man with him spoke: "There's some started already."

"Ho! And who might that be?"

"Well, first, there's the folk at Breidablik, as they call it--man
Brede, at Breidablik."

"Him--puh!" sniffed Geissler contemptuously.

"Then there's one or two others besides, have bought."

"Doubt if they're any good, any of them," said Geissler. And noticing
at the same moment that there were two boys in the room, he caught
hold of little Sivert and gave him a coin. A remarkable man was
Geissler. His eyes, by the way, had begun to look soreish; there was a
kind of redness at the edges. Might have been sleeplessness; the same
thing comes at times from drinking of strong waters. But he did not
look dejected at all; and for all his talking of this and that between
times, he was thinking no doubt of his document all the while, for
suddenly he picked up the pen and wrote a piece more.

At last he seemed to have finished.

He turned to Isak: "Well, as I said, it won't make you a rich man all
at once, this deal. But there may be more to come. We'll fix it up so
that you get more later on. Anyhow, I can give you two hundred now."

Isak understood but little of the whole thing, but two hundred _Daler_
was at any rate another miracle, and an unreasonable sum. He would get
it on paper, of course, not paid in cash, but let that be. Isak had
other things in his head just now.

"And you think she'll be pardoned?" he asked.

"Eh? Oh, your wife! Well, if there'd been a telegraph office in the
village, I'd have wired to Trondhjem and asked if she hadn't been set
free already."

Isak had heard men speak of the telegraph; a wonderful thing, a string
hung up on big poles, something altogether above the common earth. The
mention of it now seemed to shake his faith in Geissler's big words,
and he put in anxiously: "But suppose the King says no?"

Said Geissler: "In that case, I send in my supplementary material, a
full account of the whole affair. And then they _must_ set her free.
There's not a shadow of doubt."

Then he read over what he had written; the contract for purchase
of the land. Two hundred _Daler_ cash down, and later, a nice high
percentage of receipts from working, or ultimate disposal by further
sale, of the copper tract. "Sign your name here," said Geissler.

Isak would have signed readily enough, but he was no scholar; in all
his life he had got no farther than cutting initials in wood. But
there was that hateful creature Oline looking on; he took up the
pen--a beastly thing, too light to handle anyway--turned it right
end down, and _wrote_--wrote his name. Whereupon Geissler added
something, presumably an explanation, and the man he had brought with
him signed as a witness.


But Oline was still there, standing immovable--it was indeed but now
she had turned so stiff. What was to happen?

"Dinner on the table, Oline," said Isak, possibly with a tough of
dignity, after having signed his name in writing on a paper. "Such as
we can offer," he added to Geissler.

"Smells good enough," said Geissler. "Sound meat and drink. Here,
Isak, here's your money!" Geissler took out his pocket-book--thick and
fat it was, too--drew from it two bundles of notes and laid them down.
"Count it over yourself."

Not a movement, not a sound.

"Isak," said Geissler again.

"Ay. Yes," answered Isak, and murmured, overwhelmed, "'Tis not that
I've asked for it, nor would--after all you've done."

"Ten tens in that--should be, and twenty fives here," said Geissler
shortly. "And I hope there'll be more than that by a long way for your
share soon."

And then it was that Oline recovered from her trance. The wonder had
happened after all. She set the food on the table.

Next morning Geissler went out to the river to look at the mill.
It was small enough, and roughly built; ay, a mill for dwarfs, for
trollfolk, but strong and useful for a man's work. Isak led his guest
a little farther up the river, and showed him another fall he had been
working on a bit; it was to turn a saw, if so be God gave him health.
"The only thing," he said, "it's a heavy long way from school: I'll
have to get the lads to stay down in the village." But Geissler,
always so quick to find a way, saw nothing to worry about here. "There
are more people buying and settling here now," said he. "It won't be
long before there's enough to start a school."

"Ay, maybe, but not before my boys are grown."

"Well, why not let them live on a farm down in the village? You could
drive in with the boys and some food, and bring them up again three
weeks--six weeks after; it would be easy enough for you, surely?"

"Ay, maybe," said Isak.

Ay, all things would be easy enough, if Inger came home. House and
land and food and grand things enough, and a big sum of money too he
had, and his strength; he was hard as nails. Health and strength--
ay, full and unspoiled, unworn, in every way, the health and strength
of a man.

When Geissler had gone, Isak began thinking of many presumptuous
things. Ay, for had not Geissler, that blessing to them all, said at
parting that he would send a message very soon--would send a telegram
as soon as ever he could. "You can call in at the post office in a
fortnight's time," he had said. And that in itself was a wonderful
thing enough. Isak set to work making a seat for the cart. A seat, of
course, that could be taken off when using the cart for manure, but to
be put in again when any one wanted to drive. And when he had got
the seat made, it looked so white and new that it had to be painted
darker. As for that, there were things enough that had to be done! The
whole place wanted painting, to begin with. And he had been thinking
for years past of building a proper barn with a bridge, to house
in the crop. He had thought, too, of getting that saw set up and
finished; of fencing in all his cultivated ground; of building a boat
on the lake up in the hills. Many things he had thought of doing. But
hard as he worked, unreasonably hard--what did it help against time?
Time--it was the time that was too short. It was Sunday before he
knew, and then directly after, lo it was Sunday again!

Paint he would, in any case; that was decided and emphatic. The
buildings stood there grey and bare--stood there like houses in their
shirt sleeves. There was time yet before the busy season; the spring
was hardly begun yet; the young things were out, but there was frost
in the ground still.

Isak goes down to the village, taking with him a few score of eggs for
sale, and brings back paint. There was enough for one building, for
the barn, and it was painted red. He fetches up more paint, yellow
ochre this time, for the house itself. "Ay, 'tis as I said, here's
going to be fine and grand," grumbles Oline every day. Ay, Oline could
guess, no doubt, that her time at Sellanraa would soon be up; she was
tough and strong enough to bear it, though not without bitterness.
Isak, on his part, no longer sought to settle up old scores with her
now, though she pilfered and put away things lavishly enough towards
the end. He made her a present of a young wether; after all, she had
been with him a long time, and worked for little pay. And Oline had
not been so bad with the children; she was not stern and strictly
righteous and that sort of thing, but had a knack of dealing with
children: listened to what they said, and let them do more or less
as they pleased. If they came round while she was making cheese, she
would give them a bit to taste; if they begged to be let off washing
their faces one Sunday, she would let them off.

When Isak had given his walls a first coat, he went down to the
village again and brought up all the paint he could carry. Three coats
he put on in all, and white on the window-frames and corners. To come
back now and look at his home there on the hillside, it was like
looking at a fairy palace. The wilderness was inhabited and
unrecognizable, a blessing had come upon it, life had arisen there
from a long dream, human creatures lived there, children played about
the houses. And the forest stretched away, big and kindly, right up to
the blue heights.

But the last time Isak went down for paint, the storekeeper gave him
a blue envelope with a crest on, and 5 _skilling_ to pay. It was a
telegram which had been forwarded by post, and was from Lensmand
Geissler. A blessing on that man Geissler, wonderful man that he was!
He telegraphed these few words, that Inger was free, "Home soonest
possible: Geissler." And at this the store took to whirling curiously
round and round; the counter and the people in the shop were suddenly
far away. Isak felt rather than heard himself saying, "_Herregud_!"
and "Praise and thanks to God."

"She might be here no later than tomorrow the day," said the
storekeeper, "if so be she's left Trondhjem in time."

"Ho!" said Isak.

He waited till the next day. The carrier came up with letters, from
the landing-stage where the steamer put in, but no Inger. "Then she
won't be here now till next week," the storekeeper said.

Almost as well, after all, that there was time to wait--Isak has many
things to do. Should he forget himself altogether, and neglect his
land? He sets off home again and begins carting out manure. It is
soon done. He sticks a crowbar into the earth, noting how the frost
disappears from day to day. The sun is big and strong now, the snow
is gone, green showing everywhere; the cattle are out to graze. Isak
ploughs one day, and a few days later he is sowing corn, planting
potatoes. Ho, the youngsters too, planting potatoes like angels;
blessed little hands they have, and what can their father do but

Then Isak washes out the cart down by the river, and puts the seat
in. Talks to the lads about a little journey; he must have a little
journey down to the village.

"But aren't you going to walk?"

"Not today. I've took into my head to go down with horse and cart

"Can't we come too?"

"You've got to be good boys, and stay at home this time. Your own
mother'll be coming very soon, and she'll learn you a many things."

Eleseus is all for learning things; he asks: "Father, when you did
that writing on the paper--what does it feel like?"

"Why, 'tis hardly to feel at all; just like a bit of nothing in the

"But doesn't it slip, like on the ice?"

"What slip?"

"The pen thing, that you write with?"

"Ay, there's the pen. But you have to learn to steer it, you'll see."

But little Sivert he was of another mind, and said nothing about pens;
he wanted to ride in the cart; just to sit up on the seat before the
horse was put in, and drive like that, driving ever so fast in a cart
without a horse. And it was all his doing that father let them both
sit up and ride with him a long way down the road.

Chapter XI

Isak drives on till he comes to a tarn, a bit of a pool on the moor,
and there he pulls up. A pool on the moors, black, deep down, and the
little surface of the water perfectly still; Isak knew what that was
good for; he had hardly used any other mirror in his life than such a
bit of water on the moors. Look how nice and neat he is today, with a
red shirt; he takes out a pair of scissors now, and trims his beard.
Vain barge of a man; is he going to make himself handsome all at once,
and cut away five years' growth of iron beard? He cuts and cuts away,
looking at himself in his glass. He might have done all this at home,
of course, but was shy of doing it before Oline; it was quite enough
to stand there right in front of her nose and put on a red shirt. He
cuts and cuts away, a certain amount of beard falls into his patent
mirror. The horse grows impatient at last and is moving on; Isak is
fain to be content with himself as he is, and gets up again. And
indeed he feels somehow younger already--devil knows what it could be,
but somehow slighter of build. Isak drives down to the village.

Next day the mail boat comes in. Isak climbs up on a rock by the
storekeeper's wharf, looking out, but still no Inger to be
seen. Passengers there were, grown-up folk and children with
them--_Herregud_!--but no Inger. He had kept in the background,
sitting on his rock, but there was no need to stay behind any longer;
he gets down and goes to the steamer. Barrels and cases trundling
ashore, people and mailbags, but still Isak lacked what he had come
for. There was something there--a woman with a little girl, up at the
entrance to the landing-stage already; but the woman was prettier to
look at than Inger--though Inger was good enough. What--why--but it
was Inger! "H'm," said Isak, and trundled up to meet them. Greetings:
"_Goddag_," said Inger, and held out her hand; a little cold, a little
pale after the voyage, and being ill on the way. Isak, he just stood
there; at last he said:

"H'm. 'Tis a fine day and all."

"I saw you down there all along," said Inger. "But I didn't want to
come crowding ashore with the rest. So you're down in the village

"Ay, yes. H'm."

"And all's well at home, everything all right?"

"Ay, thank you kindly."

"This is Leopoldine; she's stood the voyage much better than I did.
This is your papa, Leopoldine; come and shake hands nicely."

"H'm," said Isak, feeling very strange--ay, he was like a stranger
with them all at once.

Said Inger: "If you find a sewing-machine down by the boat, it'll be
mine. And there's a chest as well."

Off goes Isak, goes off more than willingly, after the chest; the
men on board showed him which it was. The sewing-machine was another
matter; Inger had to go down and find that herself. It was a handsome
box, of curious shape, with a round cover over, and a handle to carry
it by--a sewing-machine in these parts! Isak hoisted the chest and the
sewing-machine on to his shoulders, and turned to his wife and child:

"I'll have these up in no time, and come back for her after."

"Come back for who?" asked Inger, with a smile. "Did you think she
couldn't walk by herself, a big girl like that?"

They walked up to where Isak had left the horse and cart.

"New horse, you've got?" said Inger. "And what's that you've got--a
cart with a seat in?"

"Tis but natural," said Isak. "What I was going to say: Wouldn't you
care for a little bit of something to eat? I've brought things all

"Wait till we get a bit on the way," said she. "Leopoldine, can you
sit up by yourself?"

But her father won't have it; she might fall down under the wheels.
"You sit up with her and drive yourself."

So they drove off, Isak walking behind.

He looked at the two in the cart as he walked. There was Inger, all
strangely dressed and strange and fine to look at, with no hare-lip
now, but only a tiny scar on the upper lip. No hissing when she
talked; she spoke all clearly, and that was the wonder of it all. A
grey-and-red woollen wrap with a fringe looked grand on her dark hair.
She turned round in her seat on the cart, and called to him:

"It's a pity you didn't bring a skin rug with you; it'll be cold, I
doubt, for the child towards night."

"She can have my jacket," said Isak. "And when we get up in the woods,
I've left a rug there on the way."

"Oh, have you a rug up in the woods?"

"Ay. I wouldn't bring it down all the way, for if you didn't come

"H'm. What was it you said before--the boys are well and all?"

"Ay, thank you kindly."

"They'll be big lads now, I doubt?"

"Ay, that's true. They've just been planting potatoes."

"Oh!" said the mother, smiling, and shaking her head. "Can they plant
potatoes already?"

"Why, Eleseus, he gives a hand with this, and little Sivert helps with
that," said Isak proudly.

Little Leopoldine was asking for something to eat. Oh, the pretty
little creature; a ladybird up on a cart! She talked with a sing in
her voice, with a strange accent, as she had learned in Trondhjem.
Inger had to translate now and again. She had her brothers' features,
the brown eyes and oval cheeks that all had got from their mother; ay,
they were their mother's children, and well that they were so! Isak
was something shy of his little girl, shy of her tiny shoes and long,
thin, woollen stockings and short frock; when she had come to meet her
strange papa she had curtseyed and offered him a tiny hand.

They got up into the woods and halted for a rest and a meal all round.
The horse had his fodder; Leopoldine ran about in the heather, eating
as she went.

"You've not changed much," said Inger, looking at her husband.

Isak glanced aside, and said, "No, you think not? But you've grown so
grand and all."

"Ha ha! Nay, I'm an old woman now," said she jestingly.

It was no use trying to hide the fact: Isak was not a bit sure of
himself now. He could find no self-possession, but still kept aloof,
shy, as if ashamed of himself. How old could his wife be now? She
couldn't be less than thirty--that is to say, she couldn't be more, of
course. And Isak, for all that he was eating already, must pull up a
twig of heather and fall to biting that.

"What--are you eating heather?" cried Inger laughingly.

Isak threw down the twig, took a mouthful of food, and going over to
the road, took the horse by its forelegs and heaved up its forepart
till the animal stood on its hindlegs. Inger looked on with

"What are you doing that for?" she asked.

"Oh, he's so playful," said Isak, and set the horse down again.

Now what _had_ he done that for? A sudden impulse to do just that
thing; perhaps he had done it to hide his embarrassment.

They started off again, and all three of them walked a bit of the way.
They came to a new farm.

"What's that there?" asked Inger.

"'Tis Brede's place, that he's bought."


"Breidablik, he calls it. There's wide moorland, but the timber's

They talked of the new place as they passed on. Isak noticed that
Brede's cart was still left out in the open.

The child was growing sleepy now, and Isak took her gently in his arms
and carried her. They walked and walked. Leopoldine was soon fast
asleep, and Inger said:

"We'll wrap her up in the rug, and she can lie down in the cart and
sleep as long as she likes."

"'Twill shake her all to pieces," said Isak, and carries her on. They
cross the moors and get into the woods again.

"_Ptro_!" says Inger, and the horse stops. She takes the child from
Isak, gets him to shift the chest and the sewing-machine, making a
place for Leopoldine in the bottom of the cart. "Shaken? not a bit of

Isak fixes things to rights, tucks his little daughter up in the rug,
and lays his jacket folded under her head. Then off again.

Man and wife gossiping of this and that. The sun is up till late in
the evening, and the weather warm.

"Oline," says Inger--"where does she sleep?"

"In the little room."

"Ho! And the boys?"

"They've their own bed in the big room. There's two beds there, just
as when you went away."

"Looking at you now," said Inger, "I can see you're just as you were
before. And those shoulders of yours, they've carried some burdens up
along this way, but they've not grown the weaker by it, seems."

"H'm. Maybe. What I was going to say: How it was like with you all the
years there? Bearable like?" Oh, Isak was soft at heart now; he asked
her that, and wondered in his mind.

And Inger said: "Ay, 'twas nothing to complain of."

They talked more feelingly together, and Isak asked if she wasn't
tired of walking, and would get up in the cart a bit of way. "No,
thanks all the same," said she. "But I don't know what's the matter
with me today; after being ill on the boat, I feel hungry all the

"Why, did you want something, then?"

"Yes, if you don't mind stopping so long."

Oh, that Inger, maybe 'twas not for herself at all, but for Isak's
sake. She would have him eat again; he had spoiled his last meal
chewing twigs of heather.

And the evening was light and warm, and they had but a few miles more
to go; they sat down to eat again.

Inger took a parcel from her box, and said:

"I've a few things I brought along for the boys. Let's go over there
in the bushes, it's warmer there."

They went across to the bushes, and she showed him the things; neat
braces with buckles for the boys to wear, copy-books with copies at
the top of the page, a pencil for each, a pocket-knife for each. And
there was an excellent book for herself, she had. "Look, with my name
in and all. A prayer-book." It was a present from the Governor, by way
of remembrance.

Isak admired each thing in silence. She took out a bundle of little
collars--Leopoldine's, they were. And gave Isak a black neckerchief
for himself, shiny as silk.

"Is that for me?" said he.

"Yes, it's for you."

He took it carefully in his hands, and stroked it.

"Do you think it's nice?"

"Nice--why I could go round the world in such."

But Isak's fingers were rough; they stuck in the curious silky stuff.

Now Inger had no more things to show. But when she had packed them all
up again, she sat there still; and the way she sat, he could see her
legs, could see her red-bordered stockings.

"H'm," said he. "Those'll be town-made things, I doubt?"

"'Tis wool was bought in the town, but I knitted them myself. They're
ever so long--right up above the knee--look...."

A little while after she heard herself whispering: "Oh, you ... you're
just the same--the same as ever!"

* * * * *

And after that halt they drove on again, and Inger sat up, holding the
reins. "I've brought a paper of coffee too," she said. "But you can't
have any this evening, for it's not roasted yet."

"'Tis more than's needed this evening and all," said he.

An hour later the sun goes down, and it grows colder. Inger gets down
to walk. Together they tuck the rug closer about Leopoldine, and smile
to see how soundly she can sleep. Man and wife talk together again on
their way. A pleasure it is to hear Inger's voice; none could speak
clearer than Inger now.

"Wasn't it four cows we had?" she asks.

"'Tis more than that," says he proudly. "We've eight."

"Eight cows!"

"That is to say, counting the bull."

"Have you sold any butter?"

"Ay, and eggs."

"What, have we chickens now?"

"Ay, of course we have. And a pig."

Inger is so astonished at all this that she forgets herself
altogether, and stops for a moment--"_Ptro_!" And Isak is proud and
keeps on, trying to overwhelm her completely.

"That Geissler," he says, "you remember him? He came up a little while


"I've sold him a copper mine."

"Ho! What's that--a copper mine?"

"Copper, yes. Up in the hills, all along the north side of the water."

"You--you don't mean he paid you money for it?"

"Ay, that he did. Geissler he wouldn't buy things and not pay for

"What did you get, then?"

"H'm. Well, you might not believe it--but it was two hundred _Daler_."

"You got two hundred _Daler_!" shouts Inger, stopping again with a

"I did--yes. And I've paid for my land a long while back," said Isak.

"Well--you are a wonder, you are!"

Truly, it was a pleasure to see Inger all surprised, and make her a
rich wife. Isak did not forget to add that he had no debts nor owings
at the store or anywhere else. And he had not only Geissler's two
hundred untouched, but more than that--a hundred and sixty _Daler_
more. Ay, they might well be thankful to God!

They spoke of Geissler again; Inger was able to tell how he had helped
to get her set free. It had not been an easy matter for him, after
all, it seemed; he had been a long time getting the matter through,
and had called on the Governor ever so many times. Geissler had
also written to some of the State Councillors, or some other high
authorities; but this he had done behind the Governor's back, and when
the Governor heard of it he was furious, which was not surprising. But
Geissler was not to be frightened; he demanded a revision of the case,
new trial, new examination, and everything. And after that the King
had to sign.

Ex-Lensmand Geissler had always been a good friend to them both, and
they had often wondered why; he got nothing out of it but their poor
thanks--it was more than they could understand. Inger had spoken with
him in Trondhjem, and could not make him out. "He doesn't seem to care
a bit about any in the village but us," she explained.

"Did he say so?"

"Yes. He's furious with the village here. He'd show them, he said."


"And they'd find out one day, and be sorry they'd lost him, he said."

They reached the fringe of the wood, and came in sight of their home.
There were more buildings there than before, and all nicely painted.
Inger hardly knew the place again, and stopped dead.

"You--you don't say that's our place--all that?" she exclaimed.

Little Leopoldine woke at last and sat up, thoroughly rested now; they
lifted her out and let her walk.

"Are we there now?" she asked.

"Yes. Isn't it a pretty place?"

There were small figures moving, over by the house; it was Eleseus and
Sivert, keeping watch. Now they came running up. Inger was seized
with a sudden cold--a dreadful cold in the head, with sniffing and
coughing--even her eyes were all red and watering too. It always gives
one a dreadful cold on board ship--makes one's eyes wet and all!

But when the boys came nearer they stopped running all of a sudden and
stared. They had forgotten what their mother looked like, and little
sister they had never seen. But father--they didn't know him at all
till he came quite close. He had cut off his heavy beard.

Chapter XII

All is well now.

Isak sows his oats, harrows, and rolls it in. Little Leopoldine comes
and wants to sit on the roller. Sit on a roller?--nay, she's all too
little and unknowing for that yet. Her brothers know better. There's
no seat on father's roller.

But father thinks it fine and a pleasure to see little Leopoldine
coming up so trustingly to him already; he talks to her, and shows
her how to walk nicely over the fields, and not get her shoes full of

"And what's that--why, if you haven't a blue frock on today--come, let
me see; ay, 'tis blue, so it is. And a belt round and all. Remember
when you came on the big ship? And the engines--did you see them?
That's right--and now run home to the boys again, they'll find you
something to play with."

Oline is gone, and Inger has taken up her old work once more, in house
and yard. She overdoes it a little, maybe, in cleanliness and order,
just by way of showing that she was going to have things differently
now. And indeed it was wonderful to see what a change was made; even
the glass windows in the old turf hut were cleaned, and the boxes
swept out.

But it was only the first days, the first week; after that she began
to be less eager about the work. There was really no need to take all
that trouble about cowsheds and things; she could make better use of
her time now. Inger had learned a deal among the town folk, and
it would be a pity not to turn it to account. She took to her
spinning-wheel and loom again--true enough, she was even quicker and
neater than before--a trifle too quick--_hui_!--especially when Isak
was looking on; he couldn't make out how any one could learn to use
their fingers that way--the fine long fingers she had to her big
hands. But Inger had a way of dropping one piece of work to take up
another, all in a moment. Well, well, there were more things to be
looked to now than before, and maybe she was not altogether so patient
as she had been; a trifle of unrest had managed to creep in.

First of all there were the flowers she had brought with her--bulbs
and cuttings; little lives these too, that must be thought of. The
glass window was too small, the ledge too narrow to set flower-pots
on; and besides, she had no flower-pots. Isak must make some tiny
boxes for begonias, fuchsias, and roses. Also, one window was not
enough--fancy a room with only one window!

And, "Oh, by the way," said Inger, "I want an iron, you know. There
isn't one in the place. I could use a flat iron for pressing when I'm
sewing dresses and things, but you can't do proper work without an
iron of some sort."

Isak promised to get the blacksmith down at the village to make a
first-rate pressing-iron. Oh, Isak was ready to do anything, do all
that she asked in every way; for he could see well enough that Inger
had learned a heap of things now, and matchless clever she was grown.
She spoke, too, in a different way, a little finer, using elegant
words. She never shouted out to him now as she used to: "Come and get
your food!" but would say instead: "Dinner's ready, if you please."
Everything was different now. In the old days he would answer simply
"Ay," or say nothing at all, and go on working for a bit before he
came. Now, he said "Thanks," and went in at once. Love makes the wise
a fool: now and then Isak would say "Thanks, thanks." Ay, all was
different now--maybe a trifle too fine in some ways. When Isak spoke
of dung, and was rough in his speech, as peasants are, Inger would
call it manure, "for the sake of the children, you know."

She was careful with the children, and taught them everything,
educated them. Let tiny Leopoldine go on quickly with her crochet
work, and the boys with writing and schooling; they would not be
altogether behindhand when the time came for them to go to school in
the village. Eleseus in particular was grown a clever one, but little
Sivert was nothing much, if the truth must be told--a madcap,
a jackanapes. He even ventured to screw a little at Mother's
sewing-machine, and had already hacked off splinters from table and
chairs with his new pocket-knife. Inger had threatened to take it away

The children, of course, had all the animals about the place, and
Eleseus had still his coloured pencil besides. He used it very
carefully, and rarely lent it to his brother, but for all that the
walls were covered with blue and red drawings as time went on, and the
pencil got smaller and smaller. At last Eleseus was simply forced to
put Sivert on rations with it, lending him the pencil on Sunday only,
for one drawing. Sivert was not pleased with the arrangement, but
Eleseus was a fellow who would stand no nonsense. Not so much as being
the stronger, but he had longer arms, and could manage better when it
came to a quarrel.

But that Sivert! Now and again he would come across a bird's nest in
the woods; once he talked about a mouse-hole he had found, and made a
lot of that; another time it was a great fish as big as a man, he had
seen in the river. But it was all evidently his own invention; he was
somewhat inclined to make black into white, was Sivert, but a good
sort for all that. When the cat had kittens, it was he who brought her
milk, because she hissed too much for Eleseus. Sivert was never tired
of standing looking at the box full of movement, a nest of tumbling
furry paws.

The chickens, too, he noticed every day: the cock with his lordly
carriage and fine feathers, the hens tripping about chattering low,
and pecking at the sand, or screaming out as if terribly hurt every
time they had laid an egg.

And there was the big wether. Little Sivert had read a good deal to
what he knew before, but he could not say of the wether that the beast
had a fine Roman nose, begad! That he could not say. But he could do
better than that. He knew the wether from the day when it had been
a lamb, he understood it and was one with it--a kinsman, a
fellow-creature. Once, a strange primitive impression flickered
through his senses: it was a moment he never forgot. The wether was
grazing quietly in the field; suddenly it threw up its head, stopped
munching, simply stood there looking out. Sivert looked involuntarily
in the same direction. No--nothing remarkable. But Sivert himself felt
something strange within him: "'Tis most as if he stood looking into
the garden of Eden," he thought.

There were the cows,--the children had each a couple,--great sailing
creatures, so friendly and tame that they let themselves be caught
whenever you liked; let human children pat them. There was the pig,
white and particular about its person when decently looked after,
listening to every sound, a comical fellow, always eager for food, and
ticklish and fidgety as a girl. And there was the billy-goat, there
was always one old billy-goat at Sellanraa, for as soon as one died
another was ready to take his place. And was there ever anything so
solemnly ridiculous to look at? Just now he had a whole lot of goats
to look after, but at times he would get sick and tired of them all,
and lie down, a bearded, thoughtful spectacle, a veritable Father
Abraham. And then in a moment, up again and off after the flock. He
always left a trail of sourish air behind him.

* * * * *

The daily round of the farm goes on. Now and again a traveller comes
by, on his way up to the hills, and asks: "And how's all with ye

And Isak answers: "Ay, thank ye kindly."

Isak works and works, consulting the almanac for all that he does,
notes the changes of the moon, pays heed to the signs of the weather,
and works on. He has beaten out so much of a track down to the village
that he can drive in now with horse and cart, but for the most part,
he carries his load himself; carries loads of cheese or hides, and
bark and resin, and butter and eggs; all things he can sell, to bring
back other wares instead. No, in the summer he does not often drive
down--for one thing, because the road down from Breidablik, the last
part of the way, is so badly kept. He has asked Brede Olsen to help
with the upkeep of the road, and do his share. Brede Olsen promises,
but does not hold to his word. And Isak will not ask him again. Rather
carry a load on his back himself. And Inger says: "I can't understand
how you ever manage it all." Oh, but he could manage anything. He had
a pair of boots, so unimaginably heavy and thick, with great slabs of
iron on the soles, even the straps were fastened with copper nails--it
was a marvel that one man could walk in such boots at all.

On one of his journeys down, he came upon several gangs of men at work
on the moors; putting down stone sockets and fixing telegraph poles.
Some of them are from the village, Brede Olsen is there too, for all
that he has taken up land of his own and ought to be working on that.
Isak wonders that Brede can find time.

The foreman asks if Isak can sell them telegraph poles. Isak says no.
Not if he's well paid for them?--No.--Oh, Isak was grown a thought
quicker in his dealings now, he could say no. If he sold them a few
poles, to be sure it would be money in his pockets, so many _Daler_
more; but he had no timber to spare, there was nothing gained by that.
The engineer in charge comes up himself to ask, but Isak refuses.

"We've poles enough," says the engineer, "but it would be easier to
take them from your ground up there, and save transport."

"I've no timber to spare myself," says Isak. "I want to get up a bit
of a saw and do some cutting; there's some more buildings I'll need to
have ready soon."

Here Brede Olsen put in a word, and says: "If I was you, Isak, I'd
sell them poles."

For all his patience, Isak gave Brede a look and said: "Ay, I dare say
you would."

"Well--what?" asks Brede.

"Only that I'm not you," said Isak.

Some of the workmen chuckled a little at this.

Ay, Isak had reason enough just then to put his neighbour down; that
very day he had seen three sheep in the fields at Breidablik, and one
of them he knew--the one with the flat ears that Oline had bartered
away. He may keep it, thought Isak, as he went on his way; Brede and
his woman may get all the sheep they want, for me!

That business of the saw was always in his thoughts; it was as he had
said. Last winter, when the roads were hard, he had carted up the big
circular blade and the fittings, ordered from Trondhjem through the
village store. The parts were lying in one of the sheds now, well
smeared with oil to keep off the rust. He had brought up some of the
beams too, for the framework; he could begin building when he pleased,
but he put it off. What could it be? was he beginning to grow slack,
was he wearing out? He could not understand it himself. It would have
been no surprise to others, perhaps, but Isak could not believe it.
Was his head going? He had never been afraid of taking up a piece of
work before; he must have changed somehow, since the time when he had
built his mill across a river just as big. He could get in help from
the village, but he would try again alone; he would start in a day or
so--and Inger could lend him a hand.

He spoke to Inger about it.

"Hm. I don't know if you could find time one of these days to lend a
hand with that sawmill?"

Inger thought for a moment. "Ye--s, if I can manage it. So you're
going to set up a sawmill?"

"Ay, 'tis my intention so. I've worked it all out in my head."

"Will that be harder than the mill was?"

"Much harder, ten times as hard. Why, it's all got to be as close and
exact--down to the tiniest line, and the saw itself exactly midways."

"If only you can manage it," said Inger thoughtlessly.

Isak was offended, and answered, "As to that, we shall see."

"Couldn't you get a man to help you, some one that knows the work?"


"Well, then, you won't be able to manage it," said she again.

Isak put up his hand to his hair--it was like a bear lifting his paw.

"'Twas just that I've been fearing," said he. "That I might not manage
it. And that's why I wanted you that's learned so much to help me."

That was one to the bear. But nothing gained after all. Inger tossed
her head and turned aside unkindly, and would have nothing to do with
his saw.

"Well, then--" said Isak.

"Why, do you want me to stand getting drenched in the river and have
me laid up? And who's to do all the sewing, and look to the animals
and keep house, and all the rest?"

"No, that's true," said Isak.

Oh, but it was only the four corner posts and the middle ones for
the two long sides he wanted help with, that was all. Inger--was she
really grown so different in her heart through living among folk from
the towns?

The fact was that Inger had changed a good deal; she thought now less
of their common good than of herself. She had taken loom and wheel
into use again, but the sewing machine was more to her taste; and when
the pressing-iron came up from the blacksmith's, she was ready to set
up as a fully-trained dressmaker. She had a profession now. She began
by making a couple of little frocks for Leopoldine. Isak thought them
pretty, and praised them, maybe, a thought too much; Inger hinted that
it was nothing to what she could do when she tried.

"But they're too short," said Isak.

"They're worn that way in town," said Inger. "You know nothing about

Isak saw he had gone too far, and, to make up for it, said something
about getting some material for Inger herself, for something or other.

"For a cloak?" said Inger.

"Ay, or what you'd like."

Inger agreed to have something for a cloak, and described the sort of
stuff she wanted.

But when she had made the cloak, she had to find some one to show it
to; accordingly, when the boys went down to the village to be put to
school, Inger herself went with them. And that journey might have
seemed a little thing, but it left its mark.

They came first of all to Breidablik, and the Breidablik woman and her
children came out to see who it was going by. There sat Inger and the
two boys, driving down lordly-wise--the boys on their way to school,
nothing less, and Inger wearing a cloak. The Breidablik woman felt
a sting at the sight; the cloak she could have done without--thank
heaven, _she_ set no store by such foolishness!--but ... she had
children of her own--Barbro, a great girl already, Helge, the next,
and Kathrine, all of an age for school. The two eldest had been to
school before, when they lived down in the village, but after moving
up to Breidablik, to an out-of-the-way place up on the moors, they had
been forced to give it up, and let the children run heathen again.

"You'll be wanting a bite for the boys, maybe," said the woman.

"Food? Do you see this chest here? It's my travelling trunk, that I
brought home with me--I've that full of food."

"And what'll be in it of sorts?"

"What sorts? I've meat and pork in plenty, and bread and butter and
cheese besides."

"Ay, you've no lack up at Sellanraa," said the other; and her poor,
sallow-faced children listened with eyes and ears to this talk of rich
things to eat. "And where will they be staying?" asked the mother.

"At the blacksmith's," said Inger.

"Ho!" said the other. "Ay, mine'll be going to school again soon.
They'll stay with the Lensmand."

"Ho!" said Inger.

"Ay, or at the doctor's, maybe, or at the parsonage. Brede he's in
with the great folks there, of course."

Inger fumbled with her cloak, and managed to turn it so that a bit of
black silk fringe appeared to advantage.

"Where did you get the cloak?" asked, the woman. "One you had with
you, maybe?"

"I made it myself."

"Ay, ay, 'tis as I said: wealth and riches full and running over...."

Inger drove on, feeling all set up and pleased with herself, and,
coming into the village, she may have been a trifle overproud in her
bearing. Lensmand Heyerdahl's lady was not pleased at the sight of
that cloak; the Sellanraa woman was forgetting her place--forgetting
where it was she had come from after five years' absence. But Inger
had at least a chance of showing off her cloak, and the storekeeper's
wife and the blacksmith's wife and the schoolmaster's wife all thought
of getting one like it for themselves--but it could wait a bit.

And now it was not long before Inger began to have visitors. One
or two women came across from the other side of the hills, out of
curiosity. Oline had perhaps chanced to say something against her
will, to this one or that. Those who came now brought news from
Inger's own birthplace; what more natural than that Inger should give
them a cup of coffee, and let them look at her sewing-machine! Young
girls came up in pairs from the coast, from the village, to ask
Inger's advice; it was autumn now, and they had been saving up for a
new dress, and wanted her to help them. Inger, of course, would know
all about the latest fashions, after being out in the world, and now
and again she would do a little cutting out. Inger herself brightened
up at these visits, and was glad; kindly and helpful she was too, and
clever at the work, besides; she could cut out material without a
pattern. Sometimes she would even hem a whole length on her machine,
and all for nothing, and give the stuff back to the girls with a
delightful jest: "There--now you can sew the buttons on yourself!"

Later in the year Inger was sent for down to the village, to do
dressmaking for some of the great folks there. Inger could not go; she
had a household to look after, and animals besides, all the work of
the home, and she had no servant.

Had no what? Servant!

She spoke to Isak one day.

"If only I had some one to help me, I could put in more time sewing."

Isak did not understand. "Help?"

"Yes, help in the house--a servant-girl."

Isak must have been taken aback at this; he laughed a little in
his iron beard, and took it as a jest. "Ay, we should have a
servant-girl," said he.

"Housewives in the towns always have a servant," said Inger.

"Ho!" said Isak.

Well, Isak was not perhaps in the best of humour just then, not
exactly gentle and content, no, for he had started work on that
sawmill, and it was a slow and toilsome business; he couldn't hold the
baulks with one hand, and a level in the other, and fix ends at the
same time. But when the boys came back from school again it was
easier; the lads were useful and a help, bless them! Sivert especially
had a genius for knocking in nails, but Eleseus was better at handling
a plumb-line. By the end of a week, Isak and the boys had actually got
the foundation posts in, and soundly fixed with stretcher pieces as
thick as the beams themselves.

It worked out all right--everything worked out all right somehow. But
Isak was beginning to feel tired in the evenings now--whatever
it could be. It was not only building a sawmill and getting that
done--there was everything else besides. The hay was in, but the corn
was standing yet, soon it would have to be cut and stacked: there were
the potatoes too, they would have to be taken up before long. But the
boys were a wonderful help. He did not thank them; 'twas not the way
among folk of their sort, but he was mightily pleased with them for
all that. Now and again they would sit down in the middle of their
work and talk together, the father almost asking his sons' advice as
to what they should do next. Those were proud moments for the lads,
they learned also to think well before they spoke, lest they should be
in the wrong.

"'Twould be a pity not to have the saw roofed in before the autumn
rains," said their father.

If only Inger had been as in the old days! But Inger was not so strong
as she had been, it seemed, and that was natural enough after her long
spell within walls. That her mind, too, seemed changed was another
matter. Strange, how little thought, how little care, she seemed to
take now; shallow and heedless--was this Inger?

One day she spoke of the child she had killed.

"And a fool I was to do it," she said. "We might have had her mouth
sewed up too, and then I needn't have throttled her." And she never
stole off now to a tiny grave in the forest, where once she had patted
the earth with her hands and set up a little cross.

But Inger was not altogether heartless yet; she cared for her other
children, kept them clean and made new clothes for them; she would sit
up late at night mending their things. It was her ambition to see them
get on in the world.

The corn was stacked, and the potatoes were taken up. Then came the
winter. No, the sawmill did not get roofed in that autumn, but that
could not be helped--after all, 'twas not a matter of life or death.
Next summer would be time and means enough.

Chapter XIII

The winter round of work was as before; carting wood, mending tools
and implements. Inger kept house, and did sewing in her spare time.
The boys were down in the village again for the long term at school.
For several winters past they had had a pair of _ski_ between them;
they managed well enough that way as long as they were at home, one
waiting while the other took his turn, or one standing on behind the
other. Ay, they managed finely with but one pair, it was the finest
thing they knew, and they were innocent and glad. But down in the
village things were different. The school was full of _ski_; even the
children at Breidablik, it seemed, had each a pair. And the end of it
was that Isak had to make a new pair for Eleseus, Sivert keeping the
old pair for his own.

Isak did more; he had the boys well clad, and gave them everlasting
boots. But when that was done, Isak went to the storekeeper and asked
for a ring.

"A ring?" said the man.

"A finger ring. Ay, I've grown that high and mighty now I must give my
wife a ring."

"Do you want a silver one, or gold, or just a brass ring dipped to
look like gold?"

"Let's say a silver ring."

The storekeeper thought for a while.

"Look you, Isak," he said. "If you want to do the proper thing, and
give your wife a ring she needn't be ashamed to wear, you'd better
make it a gold ring."

"What!" said Isak aloud. Though maybe in his inmost heart he had been
thinking of a gold ring all the time.

They talked the matter over seriously, and agreed about getting a
measurement of some sort for the ring. Isak was thoughtful, and shook
his head and reckoned it was a big thing to do, but the storekeeper
refused to order anything but a gold ring. Isak went home again,
secretly pleased with his decision, but somewhat anxious, for all
that, at the extravagant lengths he had gone to, all for being in love
with his wife.

There was a good average snowfall that winter, and early in the year,
when the roads were passable, folk from the village began carting
up telegraph poles over the moors, dropping their loads at regular
intervals. They drove big teams, and came up past Breidablik, past
Sellanraa farm, and met new teams beyond, coming down with poles from
the other side of the hills--the line was complete.

So life went on day by day, without any great event. What was there
to happen, anyway? Spring came, and the work of setting up the poles
began. Brede Olsen was there again, with the gangs, though he should
have been working on his own land at that season. "'Tis a wonder he's
the time," thought Isak.

Isak himself had barely time to eat and sleep; it was a close thing to
get through the season's work now, with all the land he had brought
under tillage.

Then, between seasons, he got his sawmill roofed in, and could set to
work putting up the machine parts. And look you, 'twas no marvel of
fine woodwork he had set up, but strong it was, as a giant of the
hills, and stood there to good use. The saw could work, and cut as a
sawmill should; Isak had kept his eyes about him down in the village,
and used them well. It was hearty and small, this sawmill he had
built, but he was pleased with it; he carved the date above the
doorway, and put his mark.

And that summer, something more than usual did come about after all at

The telegraph workers had now reached so far up over the moors that
the foremost gang came to the farm one evening and asked to be lodged
for the night. They were given shelter in the big barn. As the days
went on, the other gangs came along, and all were housed at Sellanraa.
The work went on ahead, passing the farm, but the men still came
back to sleep in the barn. One Saturday evening came the engineer in
charge, to pay the men.

At sight of the engineer, Eleseus felt his heart jump, and stole out
of the house lest he should be asked about that coloured pencil. Oh,
there would be trouble now--and Sivert nowhere to be seen; he would
have to face it alone. Eleseus slipped round the corner of the house,
like a pale ghost, found his mother, and begged her to tell Sivert to
come. There was no help for it now.

Sivert took the matter less to heart--but then, he was not the chief
culprit. The two brothers went a little way off and sat down, and
Eleseus said: "If you'd say it was you, now!"

"Me?" said Sivert.

"You're younger, he wouldn't do anything to you."

Sivert thought over it, and saw that his brother was in distress; also
it flattered him to feel that the other needed his help.

"Why, I might help you out of it, perhaps," said he in a grown-up

"Ay, if you would!" said Eleseus, and quite simply gave his brother
the bit of pencil that was left. "You can have it for keeps," he said.

They were going in again together, but Eleseus recollected he had
something he must do over at the sawmill, or rather, at the cornmill;
something he must look to, and it would take some time--he wouldn't be
finished just yet. Sivert went in alone.

There sat the engineer, paying out notes and silver, and when he had
finished, Inger gave him milk to drink, a jug and a glass, and he
thanked her. Then he talked to little Leopoldine, and then, noticing
the drawings on the walls, asked straight out who had done that. "Was
it you?" he asked, turning to Sivert. The man felt, perhaps, he owed
something for Inger's hospitality, and praised the drawings just to
please her. Inger, on her part, explained the matter as it was: it was
her boys had made the drawings--both of them. They had no paper till
she came home and looked to things, so they had marked all about the
walls. But she hadn't the heart to wash it off again.

"Why, leave it as it is," said the engineer. "Paper, did you say?" And
he took out a heap of big sheets. "There, draw away on that till I
come round again. And how are you off for pencils?"

Sivert stepped forward simply with the stump he had, and showed how
small it was. And behold, the man gave him a new coloured pencil, not
even sharpened. "There, now you can start afresh. But I'd make the
horses red if I were you, and do the goats with blue. Never seen a
blue horse, have you?"

And the engineer went on his way.

That same evening, a man came up from the village with a basket--he
handed out some bottles to the workmen, and went off again. But after
he had gone, it was no longer so quiet about the place; some one
played an accordion, the men talked loudly, and there was singing, and
even dancing, at Sellanraa. One of the men asked Inger out to dance,
and Inger--who would have thought it of her?--she laughed a little
laugh and actually danced a few turns round. After that, some of the
others asked her, and she danced not a little in the end.

Inger--who could say what was in her mind? Here she was dancing gaily,
maybe for the first time in her life; sought after, riotously pursued
by thirty men, and she alone, the only one to choose from, no one to
cut her out. And those burly telegraph men--how they lifted her! Why
not dance? Eleseus and Sivert were fast asleep in the little chamber,
undisturbed by all the noise outside; little Leopoldine was up,
looking on wonderingly at her mother as she danced.

Isak was out in the fields all the time; he had gone off directly
after supper, and when he came home to go to bed, some one offered
him a bottle. He drank a little, and sat watching the dancing, with
Leopoldine on his lap.

"'Tis a gay time you're having," said he kindly to Inger--"footing it
properly tonight!"

After a while, the music stopped, and the dance was over. The workmen
got ready to leave--they were going down to the village for the rest
of the evening, and would be there all next day, coming back on Monday
morning. Soon all was quiet again at Sellanraa; a couple of the older
men stayed behind, and turned in to sleep in the barn.

Isak woke up in the night--Inger was not there. Could she be gone to
see to the cows? He got up and went across to the cowshed. "Inger!" he
called. No answer. The cows turned their heads and looked at him; all
was still. Unthinkingly, from ancient habit, he counted heads, counted
the sheep also; there was one of the ewes had a bad habit of staying
out at night--and out it was now, "Inger!" he called again. Still no
answer. Surely she couldn't have gone with them down to the village?

The summer night was light and warm. Isak stayed a while sitting on
the door-slab, then he went out into the woods to look for the ewe.
And he found Inger. Inger and one other. They sat in the heather, she
twirling his peaked cap on one finger, both talking together--they
were after her again, it seemed.

Isak trundled slowly over towards them. Inger turned and saw him, and
bowed forward where she sat; all the life went out of her, she hung
like a rag.

"H'm. Did you know that ewe's out again?" asked Isak. "But no, you
wouldn't know," said he.

The young telegraph hand picked up his cap and began sidling away.
"I'll be getting along after the others," he said. "Good-night to ye."
No one answered.

"So you're sitting here," said Isak. "Going to stay out a bit, maybe?"
And he turned towards home. Inger rose to her knees, got on her feet
and followed after, and so they went, man in front and wife behind,
tandem-wise. They went home.

Inger must have found time to think. Oh, she found a way. "'Twas the
ewe I was after," said she. "I saw it was out again. Then one of the
men came up and helped me look. We'd not been sitting a moment when
you came. Where are you going now?"

"I? Seems I'd better look for the creature myself."

"No, no, go and lie down. If any one's to go, let me. Go and lie down,
you'll be needing rest. And as for that, the ewe can stay out where
she is--'twon't be the first time."

"And be eaten up by some beast or other," said Isak, and went off.

Inger ran after him. "Don't, don't, it's not worth it," she said. "You
need rest. Let me go."

Isak gave in. But he would not hear of Inger going out to search by
herself. And they went indoors together.

Inger turned at once to look for the children; went into the little
chamber to see to the boys, as if she had been out on some perfectly
natural errand; it almost seemed, indeed, as if she were trying to
make up to Isak--as if she expected him to be more in love with her
than ever that evening--after she had explained it all so neatly.
But no, Isak was not so easy to turn; he would rather have seen her
thoroughly distressed and beside herself with contrition. Ay, that
would have been better. What matter that she had collapsed for
a moment when he came on her in the woods; the little moment of
shame--what was the good of that when it all passed off so soon?

He was far from gentle, too, the next day, and that a Sunday; went off
and looked to the sawmill, looked to the cornmill, looked over the
fields, with the children or by himself. Inger tried once to join him,
but Isak turned away: "I'm going up to the river," he said. "Something
up there...."

There was trouble in his mind, like enough, but he bore it silently,
and made no scene. Oh, there was something great about Isak; as it
might be Israel, promised and ever deceived, but still believing.

By Monday the tension was less marked, and as the days went on, the
impression of that unhappy Saturday evening grew fainter. Time can
mend a deal of things; a spit and a shake, a meal and a good night's
rest, and it will heal the sorriest of wounds. Isak's trouble was not
so bad as it might have been; after all, he was not certain that he
had been wronged, and apart from that, he had other things to think
of; the harvesting was at hand. And last, not least, the telegraph
line was all but finished now; in a little while they would be left in
peace. A broad light road, a king's highway, had been cut through the
dark of the forest; there were poles and wires running right up over
the hills.

Next Saturday paytime, the last there was to be, Isak managed to be
away from home--he wished it so. He went down into the village with
cheese and butter, and came back on Sunday night. The men were all
gone from the barn; nearly all, that is; the last man stumbled out of
the yard with his pack on his shoulder--all but the last, that is.
That it was not altogether safe as yet Isak could see, for there was a
bundle left on the floor of the barn. Where the owner was he could not
say, and did not care to know, but there was a peaked cap on top of
the bundle--an offence to the eye.

Isak heaved the bundle out into the yard, flung the cap out after
it, and closed the door. Then he went into the stable and looked out
through the window. And thought, belike: "Let the bundle stay there,
and let the cap lie there, 'tis all one whose they may be. A bit of
dirt he is, and not worth my while"--so he might have thought. But
when the fellow comes for his bundle, never doubt but that Isak will
be there to take him by the arm and make that arm a trifle blue. And
as for kicking him off the place in a way he'd remember--why, Isak
would give him that too!

Whereupon Isak left his window in the stable and went back to the
cowshed and looked out from there, and could not rest. The bundle was
tied up with string; the poor fellow had no lock to his bag, and the
string had come undone--Isak could not feel sure he had not dealt over
hardly with that bundle. Whatever it might be--he was not sure he had
acted rightly. Only just now he had been in the village, and seen
his new harrow, a brand-new harrow he had ordered--oh, a wonderful
machine, an idol to worship, and it had just come. A thing like that
must carry a blessing with it. And the powers above, that guide the
footsteps of men, might be watching him now at this moment, to see if
he deserved a blessing or not. Isak gave much thought to the
powers above; ay, he had seen God with his own eyes, one night in
harvest-time, in the woods; it was rather a curious sight.

Isak went out into the yard and stood over the bundle. He was still in
doubt; he thrust his hat back and scratched his head, which gave him
a devil-may-care appearance for the moment; something lordly and
careless, as it might have been a Spaniard. But then he must have
thought something like this: "Nay, here am I, and far from being in
any way splendid or excellent; a very dog." And then he tied up the
bundle neatly once more, picked up the cap, and carried all back into
the barn again. And that was done.

As he went out from the barn and over to the mill, away from the yard,
away from everything, there was no Inger to be seen in the window of
the house. Nay, then, let her be where she pleased--no doubt she was
in bed--where else should she be? But in the old days, in those first
innocent years, Inger could never rest, but sat up at nights waiting
for him when he had been down to the village. It was different now,
different in every way. As, for instance, when he had given her that
ring. Could anything have been more utterly a failure? Isak had been
gloriously modest, and far from venturing to call it a gold ring.
"'Tis nothing grand, but you might put it on your finger just to try."

"Is it gold?" she asked.

"Ay, but 'tis none so thick," said he.

And here she was to have answered: "Ay, but indeed it is." But instead
she had said: "No, 'tis not very thick, but still...."

"Nay, 'tis worth no more than a bit of grass, belike," said he at
last, and gave up hope.

But Inger had indeed been glad of the ring, and wore it on her right
hand, looking fine there when she was sewing; now and again she would
let the village girls try it on, and sit with it on their finger for
a bit when they came up to ask of this or that. Foolish Isak--not to
understand that she was proud of it beyond measure!...

It was a profitless business sitting there alone in the mill,
listening to the fall the whole night through. Isak had done no wrong;
he had no cause to hide himself away. He left the mill, went up over
the fields, and home--into the house.

And then in truth it was a shamefaced Isak, shamefaced and glad.
Brede Olsen sat there, his neighbour and no other; sat there drinking
coffee. Ay, Inger was up, the two of them sat there simply and
quietly, talking and drinking coffee.

"Here's Isak," said Inger pleasantly as could be, and got up and
poured out a cup for him. "Evening," said Brede, and was just as
pleasant too.

Isak could see that Brede had been spending the evening with the
telegraph gangs, the last night before they went; he was somewhat the
worse for it, maybe, but friendly and good-humoured enough. He boasted
a little, as was his way: hadn't the time really to bother with this
telegraphic work, the farm took all of a man's day--but he couldn't
very well say no when the engineer was so anxious to have him. And so
it had come about, too, that Brede had had to take over the job of
line inspector. Not for the sake of the money, of course, he could
earn many times that down in the village, but he hadn't liked to
refuse. And they'd given him a neat little machine set up on the wall,
a curious little thing, a sort of telegraph in itself.

Ay, Brede was a wastrel and a boaster, but for all that Isak could
bear him no grudge; he himself was too relieved at finding his
neighbour in the house that evening instead of a stranger. Isak
had the peasant's coolness of mind, his few feelings, stability,
stubbornness; he chatted with Brede and nodded at his shallowness.
"Another cup for Brede," said he. And Inger poured it out.

Inger talked of the engineer; a kindly man he was beyond measure; had
looked at the boys' drawings and writings, and even said something
about taking Eleseus to work under him.

"To work with him?" said Isak.

"Ay, to the town. To do writing and things, be a clerk in the
office--all for he was so pleased with the boy's writing and drawing."

"Ho!" said Isak.

"Well, and what do you say? He was going to have him confirmed too.
That was a great thing, to my mind."

"Ay, a great thing indeed," said Brede. "And when the engineer says
he'll do a thing, he'll do it. I know him, and you can take my word
for that."

"We've no Eleseus to spare on this farm as I know of," said Isak.

There was something like a painful silence after that. Isak was not an
easy man to talk to.

"But when the boy himself wants to get on," said Inger at last, "and
has it in him, too." Silence again.

Then said Brede with a laugh: "I wish he'd ask for one of mine,
anyway. I've enough of them and to spare. But Barbro's the eldest, and
she's a girl."

"And a good girl enough," said Inger, for politeness' sake.

"Ay, I'll not say no," said Brede. "Barbro's well enough, and clever
at this and that--she's going to help at the Lensmand's now."

"Going to the Lensmand's?"

"Well, I had to let her go--his wife was so set on it, I couldn't say

It was well on towards morning now, and Brede rose to go.

"I've a bundle and a cap I left in your barn," he said. "That is if
the men haven't run off with it," he added jestingly.

Chapter XIV

And time went on.

Yes, Eleseus was sent to town after all; Inger managed that. He was
there for a year, then he was confirmed, and after that had a regular
place in the engineer's office, and grew more and more clever at
writing and things. To see the letters he sent home--sometimes with
red and black ink, like pictures almost. And the talk of them, the
words he used. Now and again he asked for money, something towards his
expenses. A watch and chain, for instance, he must have, so as not to
oversleep himself in the morning and be late at the office; money for
a pipe and tobacco also, such as the other young clerks in the town
always had. And for something he called pocket-money, and something he
called evening classes, where he learned drawing and gymnastics and
other matters proper to his rank and position. Altogether, it was no
light matter to keep Eleseus going in a berth in town.

"Pocket-money?" said Isak. "Is that money to keep in your pocket,

"That must be it, no doubt," said Inger. "So as not to be altogether
without. And it's not much; only a _Daler_ now and then."

"Ay, that's just it," said Isak harshly. "A _Daler_ now and a _Daler_
then...." But his harshness was all because he missed Eleseus himself,
and wanted him home. "It makes too many _Dalers_ in the long run,"
said he. "I can't keep, on like this; you must write and tell him he
can have no more."

"Ho, very well then!" said Inger in an offended tone.

"There's Sivert--what does he get by way of pocket-money?"

Inger answered: "You've never been in a town, and so you don't know
these things. Sivert's no need of pocket-money. And talking of money,
Sivert ought to be none so badly off when his Uncle Sivert dies."

"You don't know."

"Ay, but I do know."

And this was right enough in a way; Uncle Sivert had said something
about making little Sivert his heir. Uncle Sivert had heard of Eleseus
and his grand doings in town, and the story did not please him; he
nodded and bit his lips, and muttered that a nephew called up as his
namesake--named after Uncle Sivert--should not come to want. But what
was this fortune Uncle Sivert was supposed to possess? Had he really,
besides his neglected farm and his fishery, the heap of money and
means folk generally thought? No one could say for certain. And apart
from that, Uncle Sivert himself was an obstinate man; he insisted that
little Sivert should come to stay with him. It was a point of honour
with him, this last; he should take little Sivert and look after him,
as the engineer had done with Eleseus.

But how could it be done? Send little Sivert away from home?--it was
out of the question. He was all the help left to Isak now. Moreover,
the lad himself had no great wish to go and stay with his famous
uncle; he had tried it once, but had come home again. He was
confirmed, shot up in stature, and grew; the down showed on his cheek,
his hands were big, a pair of willing slaves. And he worked like a

Isak could hardly have managed to get the new barn built at all
without Sivert's help--but there it stood now, with bridge-way and
air-holes and all, as big as they had at the parsonage itself. True,
it was only a half-timbered building covered with boarding, but extra
stout built, with iron clinches at the corners, and covered with
one-inch plank from Isak's own sawmill. And Sivert had hammered in
more than one nail at the work, and lifted the heavy beams for the
framework till he was near fainting. Sivert got on well with his
father, and worked steadily at his side; he was made of the same
stuff. And yet he was not above such simple ways as going up the
hillside for tansy to rub with so as to smell nice in church. 'Twas
Leopoldine was the one for getting fancies in her head, which was
natural enough, she being a girl, and the only daughter. That summer,
if you please, she had discovered that she could not eat her porridge
at supper without treacle--simply couldn't. And she was no great use
at any kind of work either.

Inger had not yet given up her idea of keeping a servant; she
brought up the question every spring, and every time Isak opposed it
stubbornly. All the cutting out and sewing and fine weaving she could
do, not to speak of making embroidered slippers, if she had but the
time to herself! And of late, Isak had been something less firm in his
refusal, though he grumbled still. Ho, the first time! He had made a
whole long speech about it; not as a matter of right and reason, nor
yet from pride, but, alas! from weakness, from anger at the idea. But
now, he seemed to be giving way, as if ashamed.

"If ever I'm to have help in the house, now's the time," said Inger.
"A few years more, and Leopoldine'll be big enough to do this and

"Help?" said Isak. "What do you want help with, anyway?"

"Want with it, indeed? Haven't you help yourself? Haven't you Sivert
all the time?"

What could Isak say to a meaningless argument like that? He answered:
"Ay, well; when you get a girl up here, I doubt you'll be able to
plough and sow and reap and manage all by yourselves. And then Sivert
and I can go our ways."

"That's as may be," said Inger. "But I'll just say this: that I could
get Barbro to come now; she's written home about it."

"What Barbro?" said Isak. "Is it that Brede's girl you mean?"

"Yes. She's in Bergen now."

"I'll not have that Brede's girl Barbro up here," said he. "Whoever
you get, I'll have none of her."

That was better than nothing; Isak refused to have Barbro; he no
longer said they would have no servant at all.

Barbro from Breidablik was not the sort of girl Isak approved of;
she was shallow and unsettled like her father--maybe like her mother
too--a careless creature, no steady character at all. She had not
stayed long at the Lensmand's; only a year. After her confirmation,
she went to help at the storekeeper's, and was there another year.
Here she turned pious and got religion, and when the Salvation Army
came to the village she joined it, and went about with a red band on
her sleeve and carried a guitar. She went to Bergen in that costume,
on the storekeeper's boat--that was last year. And she had just sent
home a photograph of herself to her people at Breidablik. Isak had
seen it; a strange young lady with her hair curled up and a long
watch-chain hanging down over her breast. Her parents were proud of
little Barbro, and showed the photograph about to all who came; 'twas
grand to see how she had learned town ways and got on in the world. As
for the red band and the guitar, she had given them up, it seemed.

"I took the picture along and showed it to the Lensmand's lady," said
Brede. "She didn't know her again."

"Is she going to stay in Bergen?" said Isak suspiciously.

"Why, unless she goes on to Christiania, perhaps," said Brede. "What's
there for her to do here? She's got a new place now, as housekeeper,
for two young clerks. They've no wives nor womenfolk of their own, and
they pay her well."

"How much?" said Isak.

"She doesn't say exactly in the letter. But it must be something
altogether different from what folk pay down here, that's plain. Why,
she gets Christmas presents, and presents other times as well, and not
counted off her wages at all."

"Ho!" said Isak.

"You wouldn't like to have her up at your place?" asked Brede.

"I?" said Isak, all taken aback.

"No, of course, he he! It was only a way of speaking. Barbro's well
enough where she is. What was I going to say? You didn't notice
anything wrong with the line coming down--the telegraph, what?"

"With the telegraph? No."

"No, no ... There's not much wrong with it now since I took over.
And then I've my own machine here on the wall to give a warning if
anything happens. I'll have to take a walk up along the line one of
these days and see how things are. I've too much to manage and look
after, 'tis more than one man's work. But as long as I'm Inspector
here, and hold an official position, of course I can't neglect my
duties. If I hadn't the telegraph, of course ... and it may not be for

"Why?" said Isak. "You thinking of giving it up, maybe?"

"Well, I can't say exactly," said Brede. "I haven't quite decided.
They want me to move down into the village again."

"Who is it wants you?" asked Isak.

"Oh, all of them. The Lensmand wants me to go and be assistant there
again, and the doctor wants me to drive for him, and the parson's wife
said more than once she misses me to lend a hand, if it wasn't such a
long way to go. How was it with that strip of hill, Isak--the bit you
sold? Did you get as much for it as they say?"

"Ay, 'tis no lie," answered Isak.

"But what did Geissler want with it, anyway? It lies there
still--curious thing! Year after year and nothing done."

It was a curious thing; Isak had often wondered about it himself; he
had spoken to the Lensmand about it, and asked for Geissler's address,
thinking to write to him ... Ay, it was a mystery.

"'Tis more than I can say," said Isak.

Brede made no secret of his interest in this matter of the sale. "They
say there's more of the same sort up there," he said, "besides yours.
Maybe there's more in it than we know. 'Tis a pity that we should sit
here like dumb beasts and know nothing of it all. I've thought of
going up one day myself to have a look."

"But do you know anything about metals and such-like?" asked Isak.

"Why, I know a bit. And I've asked one or two others. Anyhow, I'll
have to find something; I can't live and keep us all here on this bit
of a farm. It's sheer impossible. 'Twas another matter with you that's
got all that timber and good soil below. 'Tis naught but moorland

"Moorland's good soil enough," said Isak shortly. "I've the same

"But there's no draining it," said Brede.... "It can't be done."

But it could be done. Coming down the road that day Isak noticed other
clearings; two of them were lower down, nearer the village, but there
was one far up above, between Breidablik and Sellanraa--ay, men were
beginning to work on the land now; in the old days when Isak first
came up, it had lain waste all of it. And these three new settlers
were folks from another district; men with some sense in their heads,
by the look of things. They didn't begin by borrowing money to build
a house; no, they came up one year and did their spade work and went
away again; vanished as if they were dead. That was the proper way;
ditching first, then plough and sow. Axel Stroem was nearest to Isak's
land now, his next-door neighbour. A clever fellow, unmarried, he came
from Helgeland. He had borrowed Isak's new harrow to break up his
soil, and not till the second year had he set up a hayshed and a turf
hut for himself and a couple of animals. He had called his place
Maaneland, because it looked nice in the moonlight. He had no
womenfolk himself, and found it difficult to get help in the summer,
lying so far out, but he managed things the right way, no doubt about
that. Not as Brede Olsen did, building a house first, and then coming
up with a big family and little ones and all, with neither soil nor
stock to feed them. What did Brede Olsen know of draining moorland and
breaking new soil?

He knew how to waste his time idling, did Brede. He came by Sellanraa
one day, going up to the hills--simply to look for precious metals. He
came back the same evening; had not found anything definite, he said,
but certain signs--and he nodded. He would come up again soon, and go
over the hills thoroughly, over towards Sweden.

And sure enough, Brede came up again. He had taken a fancy to the
work, no doubt; but he called it telegraph business this time--must
go up and look over the whole of the line. Meanwhile his wife and
children at home looked after the farm, or left it to look after
itself. Isak was sick and tired of Brede's visits, and went out of the
room when he came; then Inger and Brede would sit talking heartily
together. What could they have to talk about? Brede often went down to
the village, and had always some news to tell of the great folk there;
Inger, on the other hand, could always draw upon her famous journey to
Trondhjem and her stay there. She had grown talkative in the years she
had been away, and was always ready to gossip with any one. No, she
was no longer the same straightforward, simple Inger of the old days.

Girls and women came up continually to Sellanraa to have a piece of
work cut out, or a long hem put through the machine in a moment, and
Inger entertained them well. Oline too came again, couldn't help it,
belike; came both spring and autumn; fair-spoken, soft as butter, and
thoroughly false. "Just looked along to see how things are with you,"
she said each time. "And I've been longing so for a sight of the lads,
I'm that fond of them, the little angels they were. Ay, they're big
fellows now, but it's strange ... I can't forget the time when they
were small and I had them in my care. And here's you building and
building again, and making a whole town of the place. Going to have
a bell to ring, maybe, at the roof of the barn, same as at the

Once Oline came and brought another woman with her, and the pair of
them and Inger had a nice day together. The more Inger had sitting
round her, the better she worked at her sewing and cutting out, making
a show of it, waving her scissors and swinging the iron. It reminded
her of the place where she had learned it all--there was always many
of them in the workrooms there. Inger made no secret of where she had
got her knowledge and all her art from; it was from Trondhjem. It
almost appeared as if she had not been in prison at all, in the
ordinary way, but at school, in an institute, where one could learn to
sew and weave and write, and do dressing and dyeing--all that she had
learned in Trondhjem. She spoke of the place as of a home; there were
so many people she knew there, superintendents and forewomen and
attendants, it had been dull and empty to come back here again, and
hard to find herself altogether cut off from the life and society
she had been accustomed to. She even made some show of having a
cold--couldn't stand the keen air there; for years after her return
she had been too poorly to work out of doors in all seasons. It was
for the outside work she really ought to have a servant.

"Ay, Heaven save us," said Oline, "and why shouldn't you have a
servant indeed, when you've means and learning and a great fine house
and all!"

It was pleasant to meet with sympathy, and Inger did not deny it. She
worked away at her machine till the place shook, and the ring on her
finger shone.

"There, you can see for yourself," said Oline to the woman with her.
"It's true what I said, Inger she wears a gold ring on her finger."

"Would you like to see it?" asked Inger, taking it off.

Oline seemed still to have her doubts; she turned it in her fingers
as a monkey with a nut, looked at the mark. "Ay, 'tis as I say; Inger
with all her means and riches."

The other woman took the ring with veneration, and smiled humbly. "You
can put it on for a bit if you like," said Inger. "Don't be afraid, it
won't break."

And Inger was amiable and kind. She told them about the cathedral at
Trondhjem, and began like this: "You haven't seen the cathedral at
Trondhjem, maybe? No, you haven't been there!" And it might have been
her own cathedral, from the way she praised it, boasted of it, told
them height and breadth; it was a marvel! Seven priests could stand
there preaching all at once and never hear one another. "And then I
suppose you've never seen St. Olaf's Well? Right in the middle of the
cathedral itself, it is, on one side, and it's a bottomless well. When
we went there, we took each a little stone with us, and dropped it in,
but it never reached the bottom."

"Never reached the bottom?" whispered the two women, shaking their

"And there's a thousand other things besides in that cathedral,"
exclaimed Inger delightedly. "There's the silver chest to begin with.
It's Holy St. Olaf his own silver chest that he had. But the Marble
Church--that was a little church all of pure marble--the Danes took
that from us in the war...."

It was time for the women to go. Oline took Inger aside, led her out
into the larder where she knew all the cheeses were stored, and closed
the door. "What is it?" asked Inger.

Oline whispered: "Os-Anders, he doesn't dare come here any more. I've
told him."

"Ho!" said Inger.

"I told him if he only dared, after what he'd done to you."

"Ay," said Inger. "But he's been here many a time since for all that.
And he can come if he likes, I'm not afraid."

"No, that's so," said Oline. "But I know what I know, and if you like,
I'll lay a charge against him."

"Ho!" said Inger. "No, you've no call to do that. Tis not worth it."

But she was not ill pleased to have Oline on her side; it cost her a
cheese, to be sure, but Oline thanked her so fulsomely: "'Tis as I
say, 'tis as I've always said: Inger, she gives with both hands;
nothing grudging, nothing sparing about her! No, maybe you're not
afraid of Os-Anders, but I've forbid him to come here all the same.
'Twas the least I could do for you."

Said Inger then: "What harm could it do if he did come, anyway? He
can't hurt me any more."

Oline pricked up her ears: "Ho, you've learned a way yourself, maybe?"

"I shan't have any more children," said Inger.

And now they were quits, each holding as good a trump as the other:
for Oline stood there knowing all the time that Os-Anders the Lapp had
died the day before....

* * * * *

Why should Inger say that about having no more children? She was not
on bad terms with her husband, 'twas no cat-and-dog life between
them--far from it. They had each their own little ways, but it was
rarely they quarrelled, and never for long at a time; it was soon made
up. And many a time Inger would suddenly be just as she had been in
the old days, working hard in the cowshed or in the field; as if she
had had a relapse into health again. And at such times Isak would look
at his wife with grateful eyes; if he had been the sort of man to
speak his mind at once, he might have said, "H'm. What does this mean,
heh?" or something of the sort, just to show he appreciated it. But
he waited too long, and his praise came too late. So Inger, no doubt,
found it not worth while, and did not care to keep it up.

She might have had children till past fifty; as it was, she was
perhaps hardly forty now. She had learned all sorts of things at the
institution--had she also learned to play tricks with herself? She
had come back so thoroughly trained and educated after her long
association with the other murderesses; maybe the men had taught her
something too--the gaolers, the doctors. She told Isak one day what
one young medical man had said of her little crime: "Why should it be
a criminal offence to kill children--ay, even healthy children? They
were nothing but lumps of flesh after all."

Isak asked: "Wasn't he terribly cruel himself, then?"

"Him!" exclaimed Inger, and told how kind he had been to her herself;
it was he who had got another doctor to operate on her mouth and make
a human being of her. Now there was only a scar to be seen.

Only a scar, yes. And a fine woman she was in her way, tall and not
over-stout, dark, with rich hair; in summer she went barefooted
mostly, and with her skirt kilted high; Inger was not afraid of
letting her calves be seen. Isak saw them--as who did not!

They did not quarrel, no. Isak had no talent for quarrelling, and his
wife had grown readier-witted to answer back. A thorough good quarrel
took a long time to grow with Isak, heavy stub of a man as he was;
he found himself all entangled in her words, and could say next to
nothing himself; and besides, he was fond of her--powerfully in love
was Isak. And it was not often he had any need to answer. Inger did
not complain; he was an excellent husband in many ways, and she let
him alone. What had she to complain of at all? Isak was not a man to
be despised; she might have married a worse. Worn out, was he? True,
he showed signs of being tired now at times, but nothing serious. He
was full of old health and unwasted strength, like herself, and in
this autumn of their married life he fulfilled his part at least as
affectionately as she did.

But nothing particularly beautiful nor grand about him? No. And here
came her superiority. Inger might well think to herself at times how
she had seen finer men; handsome gentlemen with walking-sticks and
handkerchiefs and starched collars to wear--oh, those gentlemen of the
town! And so she kept Isak in his place, treated him, as it were, no
better than he deserved. He was only a peasant, a clodhopper of the
wilds; if her mouth had been as it was now from the start she would
never have taken him; be sure of that. No, she could have done better
than that! The home he had given her, the life he offered her, were
poor enough; she might at least have married some one from her own
village, and lived among neighbours, with a circle of friends, instead
of here like an outcast in the wilds. It was not the place for her
now; she had learned to look differently at life.

Strange, how one could come to look differently at things! Inger found
no pleasure now in admiring a new calf; she did not clap her hands in
surprise when Isak came down from the hills with a big basket of fish;
no, she had lived for six years among greater things. And of late she
had even ceased to be heavenly and sweet when she called him in to
dinner. "Your food's ready, aren't you coming in?" was all she said
now. And it didn't sound nice. Isak wondered a little at first; it was
a curious way to speak; a nasty, uncaring, take-it-or-leave-it way to
speak. And he answered: "Why, I didn't know 'twas ready." But when
Inger pointed out that he ought to have known, or might have guessed
it, anyway, by the sun, he said no more, and let the matter drop.

Ah, but once he got a hold on her and used it--that was when she tried
to steal his money from him. Not that Isak was a miser in that way,
but the money was clearly his. Ho, it was nearly being ruin and
disaster for her that time! But even then it was not exactly
thoroughgoing, out-and-out wickedness on Inger's part; she wanted the
money for Eleseus--for her blessed boy Eleseus in town, who was asking
for his _Daler_ again. Was he to go there among all the fine folk and
with empty pockets? After all, she had a mother's heart. She asked his
father for the money first, and, finding it was no good, had taken it
herself. Whether Isak had had some suspicion beforehand, or had found
it out by accident--anyhow, it was found out. And suddenly Inger found
herself gripped by both arms, felt herself lifted from the floor,
and thumped down on to the floor again. It was something strange and
terrible--a sort of avalanche. Isak's hands were not weak, not worn
out now. Inger gave a groan, her head fell back, she shivered, and
gave up the money.

Even then Isak said little, though Inger made no attempt to hinder him
from speaking. What he did say was uttered, as it were, in one hard
breath: "Huttch! You--you're not fit to have in the place!"

She hardly knew him again. Oh, but it must have been long-stored
bitterness that would not be repressed.

A miserable day, and a long night, and a day beyond. Isak went out of
the house and lay outside, for all that there was hay to be got in;
Sivert was with his father. Inger had little Leopoldine and the
animals to keep her company; but lonely she was for all that, crying
nearly all the time and shaking her head at herself. Only once in all
her life before had she felt so moved, and this day called it to mind;
it was when she had lain in her bed and throttled a newborn child.

Where were Isak and his son? They had not been idle; no, they had
stolen a day and a night or thereabouts from the haymaking, and had
built a boat up on the lake. Oh, a rough and poor-looking vessel
enough, but strong and sound as their work had always been; they had a
boat now, and could go fishing with nets.

When they came home the hay was dry as ever. They had cheated
providence by trusting it, and suffered no loss; they had gained by
it. And then Sivert flung out an arm, and said: "Ho! Mother's been
haymaking!" Isak looked down over the fields and said "H'm." Isak had
noticed already that some of the hay had been shifted; Inger ought to
be home now for her midday meal. It was well done indeed of her to get
in the hay, after he had scolded her the day before and said "Huttch!"
And it was no light hay to move; she must have worked hard, and all
the cows and goats to milk besides.... "Go in and get something to
eat," he said to Sivert.

"Aren't you coming, then?"


A little while after, Inger came out and stood humbly on the door-slab
and said:

"If you'd think of yourself a little--and come in and have a bite to

Isak grumbled at that and said "H'm." But it was so strange a thing
of late for Inger to be humble in any way, that his stubbornness was

"If you could manage to set a couple of teeth in my rake, I could get
on again with the hay," said she. Ay, she came to her husband, the
master of the place, to ask for something, and was grateful that he
did not turn scornfully away.

"You've worked enough," said he, "raking and carting and all."

"No, 'tis not enough."

"I've no time, anyway, to mend rakes now. You can see there's rain
coming soon."

And Isak went off to his work.

It was all meant to save her, no doubt; for the couple of minutes it

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